The Block Island Times
http://block-island.villagesoup.com/p/937028

Nose prints

By Martha Ball | Dec 18, 2012

After the storms I blithely replied to an inquiry about the salt on my east and south facing windows that I would just wait for the rain. In my own defense, they are awnings and not reachable without a ladder. Years ago I gave up the whole hose exercise; it was a lot more fun but never seemed especially effective. Waiting for the rain was just another of those off the cuff comments I make, think for a moment how absurd I must sound, then let slip away into inactive memory.

It is an old house, as I often say, the ceiling of the room in which I sleep is the underside of the roof, the knee walls more eye-level walls but still not tall enough for full size windows — which is fine, as things are I can open my eyes and see the horizon, or the sunrise the right times of year. So, in spite of the gray salt coating on the exterior I did wash the interior glass, cleaning it of the multiple nose prints left by visiting dogs eager to be up and about at first light, which often coincides with the deer emerging from the cover of brush to graze in the back yard.

It proved a happy coincidence the morning after this last rain that fell through a day and a night, giving life to the dry ponds and filling the hollows in my road, transforming them to something deeper and more sinister than innocuous sounding “puddles.” It poured, pelting the windows with a familiar rat-a-tat that I have not heard so loud for a long time.

Rain is an expectation of the fall but this year it has been sparse, arriving in force only when we have tilted into the end of the season. The ponds are not yet full, I tell myself, a fact that should stave off winter.

Then comes the question, when are the ponds full, do we even know anymore? There comes the odd summer when the water drops so low walls are exposed, ones we imagined to be rows of rock along the edges which turn out to be layers, built, balanced. There was, I know, a road around the big pond behind my house, we used it to go to the beach for a rare party, a trailer hitched to the tractor, following a track where there is barely room to walk today.

But that first morning after the rain, when I opened my eyes, my first thought was not of the time but of how astonishingly clean the window was, a post-washing window from a commercial, a more thorough cleaning than I thought possible even from such a downpour — until I recalled the erased nose prints.

The land is green, not the verdant color of spring but clean and fresh, not yet the tan-laced tweed of early winter. The end-of-day sky is changing; in the narrow space between the time this is written and will be printed, the sunset will begin to creep back toward night. My reference numbers are rounded, I am sure it has happened already, that this afternoon was seconds longer than yesterday.

The beach is the same, still piled with rocks, the dunes still nearly perpendicular, the entrance still baffling. I am thinking now that the dunes were cut even further back than I first estimated, and somehow the sides of the path had to have been undercut, letting grass and brush lean inward, so much so that were I taller — or my arms freakishly long — I could stand in the middle and touch both sides.

There is so much to be repaired along this whole beach, the roads, the parking lots that were flooded with sand and water and left filled with sand, the dunes that were breached wherever there was an access — thankfully, a few less than there were several years ago — the trashing of the Mansion Beach path is understandably far down on the list.

In ways I like that: the storm has not been erased, the reach of the ocean remains clearly written in the yards and yards of piled beach grass and roots and drift and stuff pushed in by the high tides. The parking lot is the one that was untouched, but the base of the bicycle rack is still under a new layer of sand. It seemed always a miracle that the designated pit managed to contain fires; now, on mornings after mild nights, I find smoldering logs further inland and recall seeing a glow that looked very much in the wrong place the previous night.

Yesterday morning the fire was dead, a pile of wood waiting to be burned beside the old road instead of on the sand. It was quiet in the perfect time when the sun is easing itself over the horizon and the air is deep night still. Even the surf was muted, low cresting waves fighting each other in the way they do, one trying to roll back out to sea as another pushes toward the beach. It was the first day I climbed the path to the Minister’s Lot, steep but not as difficult as it looked.

Then I turned around and found a new place where things were all wrong, too much beach visible to the north for the dunes having been sliced; the difference in elevation evident when I looked south and could not see the buildings at the edge of the New Harbor that have been so prominent from the [previous] height of the path.

I went out and around, in early quiet when every sound carries and the approach of vehicles is well heralded on the Neck Road. I hear the bell I seem to hear only at night when the stillness is absolute and lasting, not punctuated by as much as a distant engine. Drifting home, it finally hit me: that that first boat I’d seen docking had arrived before it should have left Galilee and it was neither Monday nor Thursday.

When the roads are finished I will not miss the detours but it has been nice to have all these boats and all these lights cutting into these days of deepening dark.

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